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Realistic approach to early learning

LEARNING IS MAGIC. Video Pack, pound;15. Learning and Teaching Scotland, Gardyne Road, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, DD5 1NY.

Learning is Magic does not re-invent the wheel, but it does draw together good practice and theory.

The pack, subtitled Supporting Adults in Assessing Children's Progress 3-5, consists of a booklet and an accompanying video. Both are split into five main sections, each one clearly presented with stated aims, guidance notes and support activities.

Tied to the curriculum framework for children aged three to five, the user-friendly pack would also benefit any institution operating within the Early Years Principles. Its stated aims are to stimulate discussion among colleagues; affirm existing good practice; and give time for reflection, all of which are fulfilled. It aims also to challenge assumptions which may be relevant but only outwith the nursery sector.

Not a heady academic document, it has a realistic approach to its stated aims, and its use of language eases this process. In particular, the area covering individual educational programmes for children with specific needs is clear and helpful.

It promotes a system for good outline planning for the academic year and emphasises and acknowledges the importance of th contribution of all staff members in the multi-disciplinary environment of early education.

Straightforward activities make for easy use by all staff irrespective of training. For instance, the activity relating to responsive planning is a step-by-step exercise incorporating a number of instructional approaches.

A 60-minute session uses a video to stimulate group discussion, team tasks and practical activities. The guidance notes make suggestions for organising and directing the session.

An air of superficiality lingers over the reality of the educational environment, which is understandable given the breadth of the pack's remit. East Renfrewshire's flagship nurseries feature well. However, the huge diversity in the standard of provision across the country, as well as the huge diversity of need, are not reflected.

Learning is Magic inadvertently raises issues regarding planning time, staffing ratios and the role of recording by all staff involved in the teaching and learning process. As a basis for reviewing practice and creating working documents within the nursery sector, it is probably one of the most effective tools around.

Gillian Kulwicki

Gillian Kulwicki is headteacher at Belhaven Nursery School, Glasgow

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